Gov't to consider filing criminal complaint against JR Hokkaido

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga indicated Wednesday the government will consider filing a criminal complaint against executives and employees of Hokkaido Railway Co. over the railway operator's falsification of maintenance data.

"We will deal with the issue appropriately after examining the outcomes of an investigation," Suga told a press conference. The falsification "is a quite regrettable and unforgivable act," he added. "The transport ministry will deal severely with it."

His comments came after JR Hokkaido said Tuesday it cannot deny the possibility that railway inspection data were falsified.

The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism started earlier this week a special investigation of JR Hokkaido, which has been hit by a series of scandals lately that point to its sloppy maintenance work.

In Sapporo on Wednesday, JR Hokkaido chief Makoto Nojima told a press conference, "I apologize for causing problems that have affected public trust in railway operations." He declined, however, to step down, saying, "It is my duty to rebuild a safe railway by finding the cause of the problems."

Nojima also said the company will set up a panel of outside experts as part of its effort to compile preventive measures.